Digital Communication

The Digital Communication division aims to provide a forum for all researchers investigating digital communication from a social science or humanities perspective. Digital communication encompasses all forms of online and offline communication — interpersonal communication, group communication, and public communication via computers, computer networks, and digital devices. Today, the dominant communication modes and information services are enabled by the technological infrastructure of the internet — with media practices increasingly happening in mobile contexts. In contrast to computer science, information systems, and technology studies, the division’s interest centers on matters of media and communication.


The division follows three broad perspectives:

(1) Innovation: The starting points are innovations in media and communication that are strongly tied to digitization. Technological development is thus understood as a social process that can incite and inform changes in media and communication. At its core, the division investigates the transformation of social communication and its reflection in new applications and use practices as well as the cognate patterns of institutionalization of media and media offerings, the shift of sign systems, and new types of organization.

(2) Integration and Differentiation: One of the division’s particular interests is the mutual influence between these innovations and other media and modes of communication. The integration of media technologies, media offerings, media organizations, media regulation, and media use patterns on the one hand, and the differentiation of media and social communication on the other (personalization, individualization, segmentation of outlets and publics) point to the tensions within these multifaceted dynamics.

(3) Networking and Networks. Networks are not only the technological foundations of networked media and digital communication. Traditional media forms such as print, television, and film increasingly rely on networked structures as well. In this regard, a communication perspective focuses on the characteristics and consequences of social networking through media of communication.

The division puts an emphasis on reviewing existing approaches and initiatives and seeks cooperation with different divisions of the German Communication Association as well as other disciplinary associations. In current media systems, digital communication is a catalyst for innovation, integration, and differentiation as well as for networking; an academic engagement with it thus provides valuable theoretical and empirical insights for understanding traditional media. For this reason, the division not only functions as a focal point for examinations of digital communication, but also interrogates the changing media landscape, which can, in turn, also inspire and extend existing concepts and theories. Besides theoretical and empirical research, the focus is on developing, adapting, and testing methods to study digital communication.


Chair: PD Dr. Merja Mahrt (
Vice Chair​: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Klinger (